Brewers star first baseman Prince Fielder is generally considered one of the three mega free agents of the 2011-12 offseason, along with Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes. But so far Fielder's impending free agency hasn't garnered quite the publicity as the other two. That's probably because Reyes is in New York (at the moment, anyway), and Pujols is, well, Pujols.
But Fielder's market should still attract a great deal of attention considering he is having an MVP-caliber season (he and Brewers teammate Ryan Braun are probably the co-favorites, though Matt Kemp has his supporters) and is only 27. A year or so ago the Brewers offered Fielder a $20-million-a-year deal, believed to be for six years with at least one opt out that didn't even make Fielder flinch, and he recently
Fielder is currently second in the National League with 34 home runs, third with 112 RBIs (one behind Ryan Howard and Kemp), second in on-base percentage at .410 and fourth in OPS at .960. The one knock on the 275-pound Fielder is that he's heavy. Yet, he is the only player in the majors to play in all his team's games (153 so far), he's played in all but one game over the last three seasons (flu, September 2010), all but eight the last five and all but 13 over six seasons. Spies tell us he isn't real a vegetarian. But whatever he's doing is keeping him on the field and consistently productive.
He looks too rich for Milwaukee, though no one should suspect that Attanasio has given up, or that the Brewers' chances are exactly zero. Here are our current favorites to sign Fielder.
• Word is, the Cubs will not hire a new GM this month, leading to speculation within baseball that they are targeting an established name GM first. Those most speculated about include the Rays' Andrew Friedman, the Athletics' Billy Beane, the Yankees' Brian Cashman, the Dodgers' Ned Colletti and the Red Sox' Theo Epstein. Two other possible names of interest could be the Reds' Walt Jocketty and Indians president Mark Shapiro. Ultimately though, the Cubs may have to settle for one of a number of strong up-and-comers as many of the GM stars have contracts for next year, an ownership stake in their current teams or some other sound reason for staying. Friedman is the name most speculated, and while he operates without a contract, most baseball insiders don't see him leaving Rays owner Stu Sternberg, with whom he has a very close relationship.
• The Phillies very much want to bring star shortstop Jimmy Rollins back. Word is, they are likely willing to do a three-year deal, although Rollins, who's a key in the clubhouse, is expected to seek a four- or five-year deal. The Phillies have shown a willingness to overpay a tad for the players they love, and it's worked out for them. So the annual salary for Rollins might be a bit higher than one might expect.
• The Red Sox are thought to have interest in Phillies reliever Ryan Madson.
• Baseball insiders suggest White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf may "dig in his heels'' and force Ozzie Guillen to stay after Guillen's continuing public blathering about how it might be best for him to be fired and other such musings. But really, it might be best for all concerned to simply trade Guillen to the Marlins, as was briefly discussed a year ago. Those talks ended when the White Sox requested Logan Morrison. But as fortune would have it, Morrison is not exactly beloved these days by the Marlins. Morrison, who was already seen by Marlins management as a bit too opinionated, now has filed a grievance against the team for demoting him at a time he says he didn't deserve it based on his play.
• The Marlins are a tough organization in general. They bumped upstairs two highly successful longtime scouts, Stan Meek and Jim Fleming, after their tough season.
• Insiders insist Attanasio will stay with the Brewers and won't become a candidate to buy the Dodgers once McCourt finally clears out.
• The Royals will try to acquire two viable starting pitchers in the offseason. They are ultra-talented in terms of positional prospects. Not so much from a pitching standpoint.
• The Red Sox' Adrian Gonzalez won't say how hurt his right shoulder is, which only puts him in line with the organizational policy.
• The Twins will try to keep free agent Michael Cuddyer.
• Ryan Dempster told MLB.com he hasn't thought much about his $14 million player option. Of course not. What's to think about? Of course, he has to pick that up. The only chance he doesn't would be if the Cubs work out a two-year arrangement for less per year, a la Chris Carpenter's $21 million, two-year deal with the Cardinals.
• Carlos Beltran opined that the Giants could use Jose Reyes, which is funny because there's certainly no probability Beltran himself will be back. Meanwhile, outgoing Giants CEO Bill Neukom suggested Beltran will be seeking five or six years in free agency. That seems highly doubtful, even as a request. Three to four seems much more like it. Neukom, who had a lot to say on his way out, also said they didn't sign CC Sabathia because they were worried Sabathia might not be worth the money in the last years of a long deal. That's as opposed to Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand, who weren't worth the money from the very beginning. Neukom technically was not in charge for those signings. But Sabathia didn't deserve that opinion being said aloud by Neukom, either.
• Buck Showalter is said to have tremendous pull with Peter Angelos now. John Hart would seem to be a candidate for the hardest job in baseball, that of GM on Angelos' Orioles.
• From here, Justin Verlander has just about locked up the AL MVP award.
• Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer ever, no matter how many saves he has.